OBG talks to Lord Risby, UK Trade Envoy to Algeria

Lord Risby, UK Trade Envoy to Algeria

Interview: Lord Risby

How would you rate the overall state of liberalisation and other market reforms in Algeria?

LORD RISBY: Today there is generally a broad consensus on the necessity of free-market reforms and the need for the private sector to drive economic growth. The path to a market economy is long and complex. Algeria has already made a number of adjustments. Some of these flowed from the difficult financial period in the mid-1990s when Algeria approached the IMF for assistance and rescheduled foreign debt.

In some areas, Algeria’s reform programme has been successful. The government established mechanisms to protect macroeconomic stability, helped by strong hydrocarbons prices. Price restrictions and generalised subsidies on consumer goods have largely been removed with important exceptions, including petrol, utilities and rents for public housing. The financial sector has started to open up, with UK banks and reinsurers able to access business in Algeria. The government has made progress since independence, but more can be done.

What can both governments do to boost UK direct investment in the Algerian economy?

LORD RISBY: The bilateral political relationship between the UK and Algeria is strong and continues to grow. Prime Minister David Cameron’s visit in January 2013 was an important step forward. We have created the mechanisms to allow both governments to lend their support to high-value, strategic projects. The appointment by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of the minister of energy and mines, Youcef Yousfi, as my counterpart will allow us to work even more closely to make progress on a range of issues. We will be looking for projects that create jobs in Algeria, transfer skills and knowledge, and support partnership between our two countries.

In which sectors do you see the most promising potential for increased bilateral cooperation?

LORD RISBY: Our focus in 2013 has been to agree on a number of major new projects with Algeria in health care, advanced engineering and English-language training. On health care, we have worked with a range of companies that are involved in hospital design, construction, training and pharmaceuticals to bring together a compelling package for Algeria. In engineering, our work includes satellites, generators, turbines and aircraft engines. These sectors have the potential to create highly skilled jobs in Algeria that cover installation, maintenance and, eventually, local manufacture.

Our focus on English-language development continues to be related to broadening access and improving quality. Prime Minister Cameron, during his visit in January 2013, announced that the British Council Teaching Centre in Algeria would be re-opened. A huge amount of work is going on behind the scenes to make this happen as quickly as we can. Other teaching centres, including franchises like Shane English Schools and Linguaphone are also developing their range of services. The British Council has an ambitious programme of cooperation with the Ministry of Education, involving intensive training for teachers and inspectors to ensure the quality of English taught in Algerian schools.

What can be done to help facilitate the entry of UK small and medium-sized enterprises into Algeria?

LORD RISBY: Since smaller companies have fewer resources, the most important improvements will relate to the efficiency of the business environment. For example, the UK government has committed to making the UK one of the fastest countries in the world in which to start a new business. One of the ways that we are doing this is by allowing small businesses to pay tax, hire employees and complete other administrative tasks on the internet. Measures like these led to the UK being ranked by the OECD as having the fewest barriers to entrepreneurship in the world. Of course, not everything that we have done in the UK will be applicable in Algeria. However, we are ready to work with our Algerian colleagues to share our experiences and suggest improvements.

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Lord Risby

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Cover of The Report: Algeria 2013

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This article is from the Country Profile chapter of The Report: Algeria 2013. Explore other chapters from this report.